Making our roads safer

The number of people killed or seriously injured on roads in Wealden have reached a peak, and in 2013 were the highest on record since 2009.

During the four year period to 2013, 343 people were killed or seriously injured in road crashes in Wealden.

District Councillors are so concerned, even though they have no former responsibility, they have commissioned a report in order to start a debate and raise awareness about how our roads can be made safer.

‘Driving the Message Home’ recommends a number of measures to change driver attitudes and behaviour through a combination of education, engineering and enforcement.

East Sussex County Council are responsible for roads in Wealden including road safety, with the Highways Agency responsible for the A27 and the A259, the trunk roads which cross the southern end of the district.  The Agency is also responsible for a short section of the A22 at Polegate.

Statistically younger male drivers stand-out as at being at more risk than others, but the report says it would however be wrong to just point the finger of blame for crashes on this group.  With life expectancy in the UK increasing and it is predicted that by 2037 one in 12 of the population will be over 80 years old.  In some rural areas such as Wealden, many older people rely on their car to get about.  The review of road safety says even conservative estimates estimate that there will be almost two million drivers over the age of 80 by 2032.

Many road safety experts now use the term ‘crash’ rather than ‘accident’, as it is considered that the overwhelming majority of road accidents can be avoided and are not uncontrolled.

New research has found that the number of people killed on country roads each year is eleven times higher than on motorways.    The Department for Transport has launched a new advert to illustrate the dangers of rural roads:

Younger drivers

East Sussex Fire and Rescue have just renewed its commitment to educating young people about the dangers of driving.  The Safe Drive Stay Alive initiative is co-ordinated by the Service with the support of Sussex Police and South East Coast Ambulance Service. The scheme is aimed at secondary school students and tackles many of the common dangers for young people – bowing to peer pressure, drink driving, speeding, not wearing seat belts, and the distraction of mobile phones.  There is a ‘Safe Drive – Stay Alive’ event planned at Beacon Academy on Friday 24th October.

Many current road safety campaigns have a tendency to focus on accidents that can happen as a result of bad driving.  Yet evidence suggests that young people will interpret unpleasant events as more likely to happen to others, not themselves. The report suggests focusing on the social inconvenience of putting their driving licence at risk may be more productive.

Older drivers

Research looking at the effect of the aging process on driving has been undertaken for the Institute of Advanced Motorists by the Transport Research Laboratory.  Driving simulation tests found older drivers tend to compensate for deteriorating vision and reaction time, by driving at safer speed and increasing the distance from the car in front.

However the ability to turn the neck to look at junctions may be impaired among some older drivers as their physical health changes over time.  The key area the research identified for improvement was the amount of time older people spent looking right at junctions.  Older drivers failed to look as many times as the younger age groups.  Older drivers need to be aware of this finding, especially as ‘failing to look properly’ is a major contributory factor for serious crashes.

Wealden has the worst road safety record for the county with the most fatalities, serious injures and slight injuries.  Wealden is the largest district in East Sussex, it has the largest population, the largest car ownership figures and the longest length of road.  There are only approximately seven miles of dual carriageway in Wealden, this figure represents less than 1% of the total length of roads in the district.  Statistically dual carriageways are safer than single carriageway roads.  The report says principal roads in Wealden were designed for traffic levels of 20 to 30 years ago.

However when the road injury statistics are matched with road length the figures do not look so alarming.

The comprehensive report also looks at those at most risk of being involved in a crash due to behaviour such as drink driving, speeding, anti-social driving and using mobile phones whilst driving.

The Review of Road Safety in Wealden makes a number of recommendations which it is hoped will increase debate and will lead to some innovative projects which will make a real difference.

Road Safety Resources:

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